How ASP's Bike Program Came to Be
From a conversation between two Middle School students over lunch hour, to an entirely new facet of our Physical Education curriculum––we are thrilled to announce that a school-wide collaboration has come to fruition! The ASP Bike Program has been officially inaugurated, thanks to the dedication of our students, faculty, staff, parents, and administrators. Learn more about this school-wide, student-driven project and the fabulous future of bikes at ASP!
In the midst of a rainy Parisian winter and COVID-19 safeguards, our Middle School students found themselves in an unusual lunchtime situation. Unable to gather together into their usual collaboratory spaces for games or chatting in large groups, but also kept off of our soccer field by unseasonably hard rains, two Middle School students found themselves wishing for more ways to spend their lunch period.
While sitting in the open space above the Middle School Commons, Matthew and Ethan, two of our Grade 8 students, hatched an idea. Out of one window, the boys could see the Parc de Saint-Cloud, the expansive national park just next door to ASP. Out of the other, they looked out onto our large parking lot, which took on a special role this year as P.E. classes moved outside to comply with COVID-19 restrictions. From street hockey to obstacle courses, capture the flag, and more, the students were more familiar with just how much fun they could have between the gardens, the empty parking lot, and the Place de l'ASP between Buildings 5 and 6.
Inspired by the large open space (and maybe with a bit of jealousy for the raucous fun of the Early Childhood students on their bikes and scooters) the boys hatched an idea: ASP should get a bunch of bikes for Middle and Upper School students to use during lunch.
The boys wanted to do something different than sports and games. Matthew said, "we were thinking about it, sitting in the Middle School space, and we talked with Madame Bailly [the French teacher nearest to their favorite lunch spot]... and we thought it could help make campus more fun."
Ethan agreed, saying, "a bike program could bring more value to our community... our school is in the ideal location for a program such as this." When thinking about how the community would benefit from a bike program, Ethan shared, "there are kids who do not know how to ride a bike, and this really shocked me. Do you know how fun it is to grab your friends and bike through the park? That is fun! That creates a bond, that creates a memory."
The boys took the idea straight to Ms. Hellali, our Curriculum Coordinator who was serving as the Interim Middle School Director before Mr. Shawe's arrival in 2020. She encouraged them to brainstorm more about the idea; where would they use the bikes, and when? As the boys began to research the process of establishing a bike program, it seemed like the whole community joined in. After Ms. Hellali's encouragement, Matthew and Ethan went to talk to Ms. Rebecca Rankin, one of their PE teachers, and Ms. Thompson, Head of School, who helped the boys research the International School of Prague, our neighbors to the north who had previously established a bike program.
After a meeting with Mr. Breen, our Director of Security, the idea of using the parking lot for biking seemed a bit tougher; with buses coming and going for field trips, or parents picking up their students, the students couldn't be sure that they'd be able to use the bikes whenever they wanted. So, the students took a cue from the creative use of the Parc de Saint-Cloud and changed their strategy: focus on getting a bike program into the P.E. curriculum for Middle and Upper School students.
The curricular focus of a potential bike program was intriguing; our students are already familiar with the potential of the Parc de Saint-Cloud, from the nature walks, Walkathons, and science classes that take place in the woods. The idea of adding a bike program to the rotation seemed easy; faculty and staff already biked the park together, and Mr. Redshaw, P.E. Teacher, and Coach Mays are experienced long-distance trail bikers.
The students began to divide and conquer: they launched a survey to get feedback from their fellow Middle School students about their thoughts on a bike program. Having received a resounding "YES!" to the idea of biking during P.E. they launched into research on the brands, sizes, and styles of bikes that could form the foundation of a solid program. "There are tons of bike paths in the park... with the P.E. program, it was pretty easy," said Matthew, to make the case for adding bikes to the curricular rotation.
"We looked into bike racks, bike covers, ways to protect the bikes..." and the P.E. Department looked into some of the brands that the school had rented with in the past. Once the research was done, the students talked with Ms.Thompson, and she took the next relay of the bike race!
The Rubber Hits the Road: Administration and Parent Collaboration
With the student survey done, the bikes and other equipment well-researched, and presentations to Ms. Thompson and the Board of Trustees delivered, the plan hit a bump in the road: how to fund a program large enough for everyone to participate, especially during a curricular class.
Unwilling to let this plan go too far 'off piste' and become lost in the shuffle of a busy school year, Ms. Thompson brought the project to the Sports Boosters, a group of parents who supported our Athletics Department and, in years past, had been dedicated fundraisers for sports and related programs at ASP.
Sports Boosters is run by two dedicated parent volunteers, Chantal and Deb, who could be found at every home game selling spirit wear and selling homemade paninis!
As the Athletics program evolved, Sports Boosters did too. As our parent volunteers began to wrap up the fundraising component of Sports Boosters, they realized that they could make a huge, positive impact on ASP's sports curriculum with the money that they had raised. In thinking about that time, Chantal shares that, "we wanted an active, and long-lasting way for Sports Boosters to make an impact," and they began to look for projects that combined sports, innovation, and athleticism. This search led to the development and installation of a climbing wall in the Fieldhouse, our Lower School Gym, which was a huge hit with our P.E. teachers and students alike!
When looking for other projects after the climbing wall, Chantal noted that nothing felt quite right, until Jane brought the idea of the bike program to them. In reflecting on the first time they heard about the program, Chantal exclaimed, "That's what we want! That's what we want to do for the school!" and Chantal and Deb's thinking mirrored that of our Middle School students and administrators: "I don't think many schools have a bike program and it lets us take advantage of the park in a totally new way."
Thanks to the Sports Boosters funding, the program was fully funded, and our students are already testing out the 25 bikes as part of the upcoming P.E. curriculum. At the ribbon-cutting ceremony earlier this week, Ethan spoke to his fellow students about the program, and closed with his hopes for the future of the program: " I hope that students at ASP will enjoy using these bikes as part of a brand new PE unit, as an after-school club, and maybe even for family rides on the weekends."
We couldn't agree more! Thank you to our intrepid students, our supportive faculty, staff, administrators, parents, and Board of Trustees for all of their hard work in taking this project from an idea to a fully-fledged bike program at ASP!